Politics Big and Small
We’re in midterm elections in the US. Unless you were holed up, cut off from media, they have bombarded you with polling forecasts, predictions of potential violence, voter turnouts and the aftermath you can expect if the balance of the current governmental power changes.
The world is watching. A friend in my native country Holland told me the Dutch are curious to see what will happen in a country with big politics. The political and racist violence that takes place in the USA astounds them; they cannot imagine the vast divide with which we’re living. Easy to say when you live in a small, social-democratic (scale does matter!) country with good economic and political relations with big brothers on all sides. “Do you not have extreme views over there”, I ask, reminding my friend of the influx of immigrants and migrants with different values. “Yes”, she says, “a political party with very conservative views is growing, but they don’t have guns. They shoot with words and slogans.”
What Works and What Doesn't Anymore
When I was in Holland last year, I read a news article about the new annual budget in the Netherlands. I hail from a long line of people who believe in social democracy. That means we take care of the underdogs and share what we have. These beliefs seem to be challenged in this social-democratic country. People with high incomes (the top 10%) pay 61% of their income in taxes to support the system. Health care with a growing and longer living population is taking up 40% of the budget. Education is absorbing another 30%; that leaves 30% for other expenses. Not enough to take care of roads, increased public transportation, military, the King’s new work quarters, and let alone nature reserves. That happens when you give the population the right to entitlements. I realize that the more we take care of the underdog, the longer the underdogs live, producing more underdogs, driving us to a zero income state. A thriving economy is needed to relieve economic suffering. Some say the income gap between rich and poor is a good thing. It drives the economy. Does this start to sound like Ayn Rand is talking?
When Goodness Fails
What happened? When I was a child and a young adult, the political system provided stability. Now that system doesn’t seem to be working any longer. The Dutch are suffocating in their own “goodness”. Left leaning politicians in the USA want a societal system similar to the Dutch and Northern European countries . This may not be the solution to our problems as the global dynamics of migration, climate change, and universal rapid access to information, upset the accepted norms.
There is a deer problem in Ashland Oregon. It is a bear problem in Tahoe City. In Africa the problem is elephants. Increased population encroaches on the wilder places in this world. The animals migrate into people's territories. Global migration toward the wealthier countries caused by war, economics and climate change is a similar problem. In small town Ashland the deer roam streets and alleys. People’s gardens provide delicious and easy accessible munchies. Can anyone blame the deer for coming out of the drought stricken hills, and take up residence in the empty lots around town? People can’t shoot them; and you can’t charge the deer rent. The ordinance says don’t feed the deer. But aren’t the gardens a way of feeding the deer? To have produce and flowers people must build fences. When I lived there, I wanted my peas and tomatoes to feed myself. How does this all translate to big politics? So much for my humanitarian outlook on sharing.
Hanging in the Balance
It’s easy to disturb a delicate balance. Disturbing the balance of nature has harsh consequences, both for the climate, but also for politics There are forces greater than us that will create a new balance. We, as humans, are lousy at doing that. My neighbor is driving a big loader tractor, scraping his mesa property bare. What will happen with the soil when it rains and snows? Mud run off into my yard? What happens when the sun destroys the soil's microbes and invasive species take root? Can you see the parallel with the big imbalances in our world?
It’s midterm voting in America. In the next few days the vote will give us answers to our questions. Will people care enough about each other to drown out the extremists, and vote for a moderate ticket? Will the outcome of the vote make a difference for the have-nots? Make a difference for the planet? Enormous forces are at work. I wonder if my changing views on politics will only add to the chaos.